Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Overanalyzing Children's Entertainment

Why so serious?
Sometimes, you just can't turn off the English major tendencies. Which is why I seem to be completely missing the point of some of LO's favorite shows, movies, books, and other forms of toddler entertainment. For example:

I've talked before about my love for this book. However, a few things have been disturbing me about it lately:

1. The food that falls from the sky over Chewandswallow is awfully American-centric. Where is the rice? What about a tofu-based curry? Can a sister get a taco? Why does the sky only provide food that the average picky midwestern toddler would be willing to eat? Is the sky really that jingoistic about food?

2. The denizens of Chewandswallow are going to have an enormous ethical crisis when they get to their new home and realize that meat comes from animals. It just fell deliciously from the sky for years. I'm sure it never occurred to them that anything had to die in order for them to eat.

3. The streets of Chewandswallow must be really really really sticky.

Image courtesy of

One of my favorite shows for kids on PBS is The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. (And I just worried for the fate of humanity when I did a search using that exact title and was asked by Google if I really meant "The Cat in the Hat Knows Alot About That." No, Google. I know that "a lot" is two words).

In any case, I love that the show features real science with Dr. Seuss's wonderfully wacky brand of humor. But, to go along with my above Google face-plant, see if you can figure out why I cringe every time I hear the theme song:

Come over here
The Cat in the Hat is about to appear
He's whizzing over to whisk you away
On a fabulous journey today

He's coming!

And now he's arrived
In the Thingamajigger
The thing that drives
He's a cat and he's oodles of fun
With his hairy helpers, Thing Two and Thing One

It's The Cat in the Hat

All of our adventures start like that
Wherever you're going, wherever you're at
The Cat in the Hat knows a lot about

He knows a lot about
He knows a lot about
He knows a lot about that!
Yes, the one tiny little issue that bothers me to no end is the misplaced "at." Clearly, if they sang "Wherever you're going, wherever you are" it wouldn't rhyme with "that!" But my soul would feel better about it.

It's an educational program, for heaven's sake. Grammar should trump rhyme scheme.

Image courtesy of 

Oh, Martha. Martha, Martha, Martha. This show wishes it could be The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. You see, Martha seems to think that it can tackle information about science and even have Neil DeGrasse Tyson as a guest voice, but it ignores the huge scientific/logic gap right in the introduction to each show:

Martha learned how to talk because she ate some alphabet soup and the letters got lost on the way to her stomach and ended up in her brain.

Think about that for a minute.

Ignoring the fact that this dog should be dead because it seems to have a digestive system that is somehow incorrectly connected to her brain, which at the very least should cause some cranial swelling, the show has a learned and gray-bearded professor type explaining the whole alphabet soup fantasy, so as to give the "magic" a scientific gravitas.

If she talks via magic, just let it be magic, okay? Or, if she talks via science then give us some real science. Either pick science or magic. You can't have both.

(As a side note, I recognize that I'm perfectly happy accepting the fact that there is a 7 foot tall talking feline in an enormous floppy top hat who visits two ordinary children to teach them about science. But as I see it, since they don't try to provide any reasonable explanation for a talking cat, they get a free pass. Just don't break your own rules, darn it!)
Image courtesy of
J is going to kill me for this one, but man does the movie Cars get my overanalyzing hackles up.

1. Why on earth do these cars have tongues and teeth? Shouldn't they theoretically be talking out of their gas caps/tanks?

2. For that matter, why do they have doors? (This one can really creep you out if you think about it too much.)

3. They show Sarge hoisting up the American flag. But there are a couple of issues with this patriotic display. Firstly, cars with internal combustion engines have only existed since the late 19th century. So where does the rest of American history come from that would lead to the creation of an American flag? Were white-wig-wearing and tea-sipping bicycles fighting for freedom from the British cycles? If so, then why don't we see any anthropomorphic bicycles in the film?

4. And my biggest issue of all with this movie: how did they create all this infrastructure? CARS DON'T HAVE THUMBS!

This is all to prove that I've either entirely lost my willing suspension of disbelief or my sense of humor.

If you see either, please send them back to me via a talking animal or vehicle. Or possibly via a falling meatball.


  1. Brava, sis. This one had me LOL. (BTW, that "at" really bugs me, too. I think if The Kid ever watches that show we may have to fastforward through the opening credits)

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds fault with even the most innocent of the media.

  3. This was a very thought provoking article on the preposterous facade of kids entertainment. I am glad that people besides me take notice of these things and are very vocal about their opinions.

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